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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Unemployment Insurance Claims Continue to Fall
by Kathleen Stephansen, CBE  October 14, 2021

• Initial claims are close to pre-pandemic levels.

• Continuing claims continue to fall.

• Insured unemployment rate falls below 2%.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance fell to 293,000 (-64.8% y/y) in the week ending October 9, from 329,000 the previous week, which was revised from 326,000. The Action Economics Forecast Survey had expected 329,000 initial claims for the latest week. The 4-week moving average was 334,250, a decrease of 10,500 from the previous unrevised week and the lowest since March 14, 2020, when it was 225,000.

Initial claims for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program in the week ended October 9 were 21,624 (-93.6% y/y) versus 23,506 in the previous week. The latest number was near the lowest level since the program began on April 4, 2020, at the start of the pandemic.

By comparison, these claims averaged 107,756 per week during August. The PUA program provided benefits to individuals who are not eligible for regular state unemployment insurance benefits, such as the self-employed. This program expired on September 6, explaining the smaller number of new claims during the latest several of weeks. Given the brief history of this program, these and other COVID-related series are not seasonally adjusted.

Continued weekly claims for regular state unemployment insurance fell during the week of October 2 to 2.593 million (-72.0% y/y) from 2.727 million in the prior week, revised from 2.714 million. The insured rate of unemployment slipped to 1.9% from 2.0%.

Continued weekly claims in the Pandemic Assistance Program (PUA) program dropped to 549,103 in the September 25 week (-95.0% y/y) from 647,690 the prior week, as the program wound down. Continued weekly claims for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) fell sharply to 440,435 in the week of September 25, from 630,814 in the prior week and from 3.645 million in the week ended September 4. This program covered people who had exhausted their state unemployment insurance benefits.

In the week ended September 25, the total number of all state, federal, PUA and PEUC continued claims fell sharply w/w to 3.649 million from 4.172 million the week prior and from 11.250 million in the week ending September 4. These total claims averaged 6.025 million over the four weeks ended September 25. These figures are not seasonally adjusted.

The state insured rates of unemployment in regular programs continues to vary widely. In the week ending September 25, the highest insured unemployment rates were in Illinois (4.38%), California (3.32%), New Jersey (2.71%), Nevada (2.60%), and New York (2.27%). The lowest rates were in South Dakota (0.18%), Alabama (0.34%), North Dakota (0.36%), Idaho (0.40%), and Nebraska (0.42%). Insured unemployment rates in other large states included Pennsylvania (2.46%), Texas (1.11%), Ohio (0.92%), and Florida (0.70%). These state rates are not seasonally adjusted.

Data on weekly unemployment claims going back to 1967 are contained in Haver's WEEKLY database, and they are summarized monthly in USECON. Data for individual states are in REGIONW. The expectations figure is from the Action Economics Forecast Survey, carried in the AS1REPNA database.

Unemployment Insurance (SA, 000s) 10/09/21 10/02/21 09/25/21 Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Initial Claims 293 329 364 -64.8 1,352 218 220
Initial Claims (NSA) 278 262 300 -66.2 1,353 218 221
Initial Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) 22 24 18 -93.6 -- -- --
Continuing Claims -- 2,593 2,727 -72.0 10,380 1,699 1,754
Continuing Claims (NSA) -- 2,253 2,404 -74.7 10,370 1,704 1,763
Continuing Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) -- -- 549 -95.0 -- -- --
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 1.9 2.0

5.2
(Oct 2020)

7.1 1.2 1.2
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